Arts + Culture Music News

Queen of the Opera Jessye Norman died at Age of 74

October 1, 2019

She was one of the world’s most famous opera stars. American soprano Jessye Norman died in New York at the age of 74. She was a perfectionist and diva, an inspiration and a civil rights activist. She was a prima donna – a queen of the opera, an empress of the concert, a goddess of the song.

Norman was a great artist and a remarkable woman in every possible sense. Everything was great about the singer: the powerful voice, the unique performance, the huge aspiration, the tremendous skill, and the intense allure.  And then she was also a majestically beautiful woman who could move minimalist but at the same time extreme graceful.


Her voice was dark and bright, crystal clear and overcast. She sang on Richard Strauss’s endlessly rising breath like spirituals. She had a perfect German diction and could be fluent in French. Nonetheless, she was not content with what she had achieved, and she always wanted to push and overcome her limits.

Jessye Norman was very unique; she did not fit into any subject. She sang in her early days in the ensemble of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, but she was born to be a solo artist. she was better because she was special. Norman did not seek quick success, but artistic fulfillment.

Norman was one of the few black artists to gain international fame and honor in the opera world. She has appeared in prestigious houses such as the Milan Scala or the New York Metropolitan Opera. With her passionate soprano voice, she completed title roles in works such as Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” and Giuseppe Verdi’s “Aida”.

Norman grew up in a musical family with pianists and singers. She herself sang mainly in the church. “I got to know the opera on the radio,” Norman reported in an interview about her childhood. “I got my first own radio at nine or ten, and I could hear in my room what I wanted, without disturbing my brothers, on Saturdays there was always a broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and Saturday I always had to clean my room, which always took just as long as the opera. ”

Her own career began in Germany: in 1968 she won the ARD International Music Competition in Munich. A year later she debuted in the role of Elisabeth in Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. Supposedly Norman should have offered a four-year commitment after the second break of Tannhäuser, which surprised her.

Soon Norman, with her brilliant voice, also delighted audiences on opera stages around the world. She mastered different languages, such as german, french, and italian. The New York Times once described her soprano as “a magnificent mansion of sound.”

Norman was not limited to the world of opera and classical music. She also made a name for herself as a jazz singer of Duke Ellington songs. In her long career, she has garnered 15 Grammy nominations, winning four of her coveted music awards four times. In 2006 she got a Grammy for her life’s work.


“What I have to offer is a singing, musical voice,” she once said. A voice in the middle of nowhere between lyrical and dramatic, heavy, but also mobile.